Cairn Terriers

Cairn Terriers

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Breed Notes

The Cairn Terrier originated in Scotland and is the smallest of the terriers. It is believed that he probably came from the same original stock as the West Highland White Terrier. Originally, the Cairn was bred to chase foxes, rats, otters and other vermin out of their dens and hiding places to be exterminated by the farmers. These dens and hiding places were often amongst the piles of stones called cairns that the Scots use as landmarks and memorials, thus the name of the breed. They were recognized by the British Kennel Club in 1912 and the American Kennel Club in 1913.
The Cairn is a reserved dog with strangers. He is single-heartedly devoted to his master. He is also a natural retriever. Indoors he makes for a well mannered, quiet housedog. He is also a good watchdog with a quick ear and the sharp bark of all terriers.
The Cairn's skull is broader than long with a definite drop from the skull to muzzle (the stop). The head is well covered with hair. His eyes are medium sized, hazel in color and set wide apart with shaggy eyebrows. His ears are small, pointed and carried erect. They are set wide apart on the top of the head. His body is well muscled and strong but not heavy. His tail is undocked and carried erect but not curled over the back. His legs are of medium length but not heavy boned. They are straight and covered with coarse hair. His front feet are larger than his hind feet. He has a double coat. The under coat is short, soft and furry while the outer coat is harsh, naturally shaggy and weather resistant. It may be any color other than white. Dark ears, muzzle and tail tip are preferred. Average height is nine-and-one-half inches to ten inches at the top of the withers. Average length from front of the chest to back of the hindquarters is between fourteen-and-one-half inches to fifteen inches. Average weight is between thirteen and fourteen pounds. of Walnut, CA writes:

Great little dog and friend.
Our Cairn has been a great friend to my family. She's gentle with kids and forgivng during the times when they dressed her in doll clothes and all the crazy things kids do. She is older now, and slowed down quite a bit. She required eye surgery for a luxed lens which I was told is common to the breed. She also has a skin condition which requires some upkeep as well. They can be expensive to take care of when they are older, but worth the price for sure. of New England writes:

A lot of work, but what a clown!
I can't obviously speak for all Cairn Terriers, but mine has been more than a handful since I adopted her at age one and a half. She is great with kids (I recommend for kids age four and up) and loves to roughhouse with my four-year-old boy. She's quite bossy and is trainable, but only to the point that she wants to be trained. She will soil the house incessantly unless crated when we're out. She will destroy anything left on the floor. Cairns are big chewers! My kids know "if it's on the floor, it belongs to the dog!" I recommend crating. Grooming isn't difficult, but it is necessary to frequently brush, and brush, and brush, especially if they're outside roughing it up often. An independent, sassy dog, not for everyone. I wouldn't live without her, though. She constantly cracks us up. She pulls pranks and does little tricks she taught herself, because she loves to hear us laugh. When it suits her, she will crash on a lap for a while and snuggle. A Cairn is not a dog to follow you around with big doe eyes hanging on your every word. Interestingly, though, her world just crumbles (albeit temporarily) if you really chew her out. She does want to pleas... just not so much at the expense of her fun! In short, a lot of work, but a hilarious, happy dog who is up for just about anything, and a great sport. of Arlington, TX writes:

The most wonderful pet I have ever had.
I have had my Cairn for three years now and he is the most loving, enjoyable, funniest animal I have ever had. He was very easy to potty train and only had behavioral problems such as digging, etc., as a puppy. He is a lap dog. He greets all at the door with some sort of present, wags his tail and loves to be chased. He has never been aggressive toward anyone and will settle in their lap immediately. He thinks he is loved by all. He loves to talk and wag his tail. He barks at strangers but secretly will be their best friend. He sleeps and plays with our cat. Anyone who says they have a bad and mean Cairn has not raised him correctly or got a bad dog from a not-so-good breeder. I have had lots of animals and by far this dog has the best disposition and personality of all. I will never have any other dog.

Name withheld by request of Sutton-in-Ashfield, England writes:

The Cairn Terror!
An outgoing, assertive dog, with every interest torn towards play rather than obedience. Although not a "cuddly" breed, some Cairns have their moments and are warmhearted clowns deep inside of them. A good family pet, but may nip you when they think you are playing with them. Overall, Cairns tend to be a great pet for anyone of any age. of Alabama writes:

Small, sturdy, bright and true. They give their love to you.
We have two Cairns, a three-year-old male and a six-month-old female. Obviously we enjoy the breed enough to add the second one!
Our male is a wonderful member of the family. Once past puppyhood, he never chewed or got into things he shouldn't. He never does his "business" in the house, and never digs. Now for the downside. He barks like mad if he sees a squirrel or a cat outside. He also goes crazy if he sees certain animals on TV. (Forget watching the Animal Planet!) He used to escape regularly, but we added an electronic fence and now he doesn't even wear the collar, but always stays in the yard. This actually cut down on barking as well for some reason.
Our puppy, however, is so very different from him. Of course, she's just six-months-old, so the chewing and housebreaking struggles are to be expected. She also has allergies, and we will be starting allergen therapy (shots) soon. Unfortunately, she's also a digger. I'm hoping that once she is trained to the electronic fence that she'll enjoy exploring and won't dig as much (right now we put her out on a lead for short periods). She can be so funny with some of her vocalizations that she just cracks us up. Even the vet said, "Oh, you have a talker, huh?"
Overall, we find these dogs to be extremely affectionate, playful dogs. They are both lap dogs, and love to be cuddled. They both love to sleep on my lap when I'm on the computer (one at a time!). Neither dog has ever shown a bit of aggressiveness to people, but don't seem to want to "make friends" with other neighborhood dogs. We have two kids, lots of kids in and out of the house, and absolutely no problem, except for excitability when someone new first arrives. They are great dogs, and I highly recommend them, but feel they may be better suited to a household where someone is home most of the day. I'm not sure they would do well being crated for extended periods.
In closing, I'll paraphrase the lyrics from one of the songs in my favorite movie, "Best in Show": "God loves a terrier, yes he does! Small, sturdy, bright and true, they give their love to you. God loves a terrier!" OK, so that was about the Norwich, but it applies to Cairns, too! of Ohio writes:

My best friend.
I have had my Cairn Terrier for two years now. He is the joy of my life. He is my devoted companion; he is very protective of his family. He is somewhat aggressive toward strangers however, he wouldn't actually hurt anyone he is just trying to protect those he loves. When he was a puppy I thought he would never calm down, he was always playing and roughhousing, but after about six to seven months he soon started taking naps with me and now as soon as I sit down he is on my lap ready to give out all the kisses I want. The love I have found for my Cairn Terrier is beyond words, I never truly understood people being so wrapped up in their pets but after my Cairn has come into my life I truly couldn't imagine life without him. He makes me happy and content and is always making me laugh. Cairn Terriers are very intelligent and they learn quickly; trust me if you have one around there will never be a dull moment.

Name withheld by request of Texas writes:

Very territorial and aggressive.
I owned a Cairn Terrier several years ago, and noticed that as he matured he became more and more territorial. He was raised with a cat, but had no affection for it. He would try to banish the cat to other areas of the house. Then we started to notice that he was becoming somewhat aggressive (growling) toward children who came to our home. We would discipline him for this and then remove him from the situation. We got rid of our Cairn Terrier when he attacked our son's friend. They were back in my son's bedroom playing video games, and my son's friend looked at our dog and was going to pet him, and the dog attacked him in the face. It was so horrible! Thankfully, the boy did not recieve any permanent damage, but it was a terrifying experience for him and for his family and us. My son had to pull the dog off of him. We gave our dog away to a lady who did not have any young children. After we did so, though, we found out that his aggression worsened, and was also targeted at adults. He attacked her granddaughter when her family was visiting from out of town. He has caused so much misery and destruction. I would be VERY careful with this breed. I would never own another one.

Name withheld by request of Kentucky writes:

Best of clown &shyp; makes me laugh.
My family absolutely loves our Cairn Terrier. He is the funniest dog we have ever owned. Talk about a stress reliever. There is no need for Prozac in our house. We own the natural supplement &shyp; our Cairn Terrier. Cairn Terriers are great with kids, love to play, perfect housedog but loves to go outside. We recommend an invisible fenced yard. They are funny, funny, and more funny. Ours makes us laugh constantly. Shed very little. This is a biggie for me, I do not like shedding dogs in the house. Plays well with other dogs. I also own an elderly Maltese, he loves to play with our Cairn; he has brought my Maltese back to life. Do your family a favor ... own a Cairn Terrier. of Rochester, New York writes:

Excellent house companion.
Cairn Terriers are intelligent little dogs which make excellent house pets. A tough and hardy little dog, but not recommended for young children. Good for short periods of play time. Spend a good amount of time napping. Alerts to any new changes. Barking is not excessive, but must be controlled from an early age. These little dogs have a mind of their own. Good communicators, sensitive to their owners, but with a mind of their own. Easy keepers. Will go walking in cool weather, but do not do well on even short walks in warm weather. This dog is an excellent house companion.

Name withheld by request of Jacksonville, FL writes:

A wonderful little guy.
My Cairn is almost eight months old now. He is such a joy. He is very entertaining and has to be in the middle of everything. He is good at playing by himself, but I have to keep an eye on him or he will get into mischief ... after all, he is still only a puppy. He's definitely not a lap dog ... maybe after he gets older. He has a lot of puppy things to do and he does them, especially if I decide it's time to hold him for the few minutes I can get him to stay in my lap. I would recommend a Cairn Terrier to anyone who wants an even-tempered, smart little guy. He's a lot of work but worth it! of Iowa writes:

The drawbacks to a Cairn are few. They don't require a lot of grooming, love all people, are easily house-broken and not destructive. The drawbacks are they dig (not all that much but they do dig), and if you let them out without a leash they will be gone. .They are extremely curious and will go exploring at lightening speed if you aren't careful. of Juneau, AK writes on 9/1/01:

A dog that makes everyone who sees him smile.
My Cairn is a hardy, active little guy. He's always ready for a ten mile hike, and leaps along rugged trails fearlessly. It took forever to housetrain him, and it was two years before I could trust him to return to me when he was off-leash. Now at three he is a perfect gentleman and enjoys pleasing me. He loves to carry sticks that are bigger than he is - people applaud as he struts along with his heald up high brandishing a big stick! He loves children, other dogs, and his Siamese cat. Around the house he is calm and cheerful. His littermates are all as wonderful as he is. I can't imagine a better dog or a better friend. of Wisconsin writes on 1/13/01:

A wild and destructive dog.
I definately need help with my Cairn Terrier. I think there are some bad genes in her. She is 10 months old. She has gone through puppy training. she is wild and you have to watch her every second or she will destroy anything that she happens to come upon. I know this breed of dog digs - but - she has nearly ruined our back yard with her diggings. My husband is beside himself. We made a place for her to dig - but she digs wherever she wants - the only way to stop the digging everywhere is to put her on a lease. I really like this dog and don't want to let her go. of Atlanta, GA writes on 11/8/00:

The best dog I ever had.
Having a Cairn was the joy of my life ... my dog is deceased now, but he was such a little fireball, a total charmer, a real comedian, and the best and most easygoing companion imaginable. Cairns have all of that terrier fire but are unbelievably sweet and happy-go-lucky. Definitely the best termperament of any other small dog I've had. I think they're smart as a whip, and if you train them, they'll be your best friend and also your finest companion.

Name withheld by request of Thunder Bay ON writes on 8./17.00:

There is a lot of dog in this little package.
I remember reading when researching Cairn Terriers, they are the best little pals in the world. After owning a male Cairn for eleven years and counting no truer statement could ever be made. Intellengent, fun loving, scrappy and great with all children. The Cairn Terrier has boundless energy when out on a hike, yet he is calm around the house. Generally very hardy and long lived I would recommend this dog to any one. But don't forget he is a terrier first, full of fire and fearless. of Canada writes on 3/29/00:

The best little pal in the world.
Cairn Terriers are independent, intelligent, charming, and adore attention. They are excellent family companions and are very good with children who are treat them with respect. They are tireless at play and will outlast almost any youngster. Their independent nature may lead to stubborness but their charm and lovable personalities can quickly win over almost anyone. Even "big dog" enthusiasts, such as myself, are sold to the charm of this clown at heart. The Cairn has no idea of his size and has been referred to as a "big dog in a little package." Grooming requirements are minimal. A thorough brusing once or twice a week will keep his coat in good condition. For the perspective dog owner who is willing to provide a firm but loving home and allow this breed to bond as one of the family they will certainly enjoy a lifetime of love, companionship, and laughter that only a Cairn Terrier can fill so completely.

Name withheld by request of Tucson AZ writes on 3/22/00:

A joy to behold but NOT a lap dog!
Our Cairn was FUN and a perfect dog for a family of boys! He'd roughhouse and tumble and run with the heard! This is NOT a dog for those who want a cuddle-pillow, though. Cairns are feisty and very independent creature, not stubburn but assertive - they know what they want! Make sure you give them a good romp everyday and allow them the joy of the chase! Just be sure that you are realistic in your expectations. A super family dog, all the way: a BIG dog in a LITTLE dog's body! of the U.S. writes on 3/6/00:

Great dogs with big hearts.
I have had 20+ Cairn Terriers in the past ten years and I have never seen such a wonderful dogs. They require little training. There is the occasional rebel but all in all they are wounderful obedient dogs. of Lockport, IL writes on 2/23/00:

Bold assertive dogs that need training and understanding to bring out their best qualities.
I love my Cairn Terrier. They are a wonderful breed but not for everyone. They can be independent, loving, snugglers, outrageous, disobedient and frustrating all at the same time. Positive, firm training is a must for this breed. Many people do not think they are suited for obedience or agility but with patience they can excel at anything they put their minds to. The bottom line is that they require training and persistance. I think all dogs need this but some need it more than others. The Cairn is definitely one who needs it! of California writes on 2/18/00:

One of life's purest joys.
Over the last 25 years, I have had Cairn Terriers as an integral part of my family. Without a doubt, they have been the most intelligent, loving, and entertaining dogs I have ever seen. Always eager to
please, yet independent and curious, they provide sunshine and endless adventure. They are natural clowns, and no task is beyond them.
While their bodies may be little, their hearts are king-size, and they are totally devoted to their family. No stranger will approach thier home unheralded, and they will fearlessly sacrifice themselves for
those they love. Unless you are truly dedicated to having a "floor mop" or "couch potato" type of pet, (in which case, a Cairn is not for you)this dog will enrich your life beyond anything you can imagine. of Atlanta, GA writes on 12/19/99:

The smallest large dog you can be around.
Our Cairn was a complete joy in our home. He had to be in the middle of whatever was happening. He was easily house trained although if he got outside the fence by himself he was gone. He wouldn't even look back. He was always looking for adventure and when you caught up with him he was very excited to see you and have you join him in his great adventure. At the end of the day, he reverted to a lap dog and first thing in the morning, he would jump in bed and "dig" me out from under the covers. He was excited when I would arrive home from work and stayed excited whenver I would speak to him. He was my dog, my friend and a valued companion in our home.

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